Is your mouthwash doing its job? Do you demand too little of it?
A good mouthwash should help your dental health, not just freshen your breath for a short while. Many mouthwashes only do the latter. Expect more than just a splash of minty breath!
There basically are two kinds of mouthwash: Cosmetic mouthwashes, to temporarily mask bad breath, and several types of therapeutic mouthwashes, said dentist Vernon Beamon, D.M.D., of Beamon Dental Clinic in Gulfport, Miss.
Therapeutic mouthwashes may reduce or control plaque, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), tooth decay and/or aid mouth moisture.
These therapeutic products are available as over-the-counter (OTC) mouthwash or by prescription from your dentist, depending on the formula. They also tend to be better, longer-term options to control bad breath than cosmetic mouthwash, which may not kill bacteria associated with bad breath, Dr. Beamon said.
Check to see which helpful active ingredients are in your mouthwash, he suggested. You also may ask your dentist help chose the best OTC mouthwash for your needs, or to order a prescription (Rx) mouthwash, if necessary.
When you choose an OTC mouthwash, American Dental Association (ADA) publications explain what some of the active ingredients offer. According to the ADA, key active ingredients in therapeutic mouthwashes include:
~ cetylpyridinium chloride – helps control bad breath, plaque and gingivitis.
~ essential oils (eucalyptol, menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate) – help control plaque and gingivitis.
~ fluoride – helps prevent tooth decay.
~ flouride without alcohol – moisture relief. (Enzymes, cellulose derivatives and/or animal mucins also may help moisturize your mouth. Alcohol may contribute to dry mouth.)
~ peroxide (OTC hydrogen peroxide or Rx carbamide peroxide) – whitening agents. (Avoid long-term use of peroxides.)
~ chlorhexidine – helps control plaque and gingivitis (Rx only).
~ antimicrobials – (chlorhexidine, chlorine dioxide, cetylpyridinium chloride, essential oils) more long-term control of bad breath.
Avoid zinc lactate, which may be used in combination with other ingredients to reduce bad breath. Zinc lactate may significantly contribute to tooth staining, according to the ADA.
Some mouthwashes even may work against your oral health, if your mouth is overly sensitive to ingredients or you have an oral health issue that the mouthwash exacerbates, various sources indicated. In such cases, stop using the mouthwash and consult your dentist for advice.
Never swallow mouthwash, Dr. Beamon added. It is not intended for that application and may irritate your esophagus, stomach and digestive tract. For that reason, children under age 6 should not use mouthwash, unless directed by a dentist. They may inadvertently drink it.
For an appointment with Dr. Beamon, call Beamon Dental at (228) 896-3600. We serve patients from across the Mississippi Gulf Coast in our Gulfport clinic.